Reassessment of the market is needed to harness opportunities
Gangtok, Jul 5: A reassessment of the market situation is needed to harness and realise the opportunties generated by reopening of the Nathu La trade route, Motilal Lakhotia, a leading businessman of Gangtok who had spent seven years trading in Tibet in the fifties said.
The eighty year old business tycoon who had a roaring business in Tibet from 1954 -61 under the banner of Sikkim Tibet Company said the reassessment was needed to judge the requirements of the Tibetan as there was a vast difference between Tibet now and Tibet then.
Tibet, he said, had undergone sea change over the last few years.
It is now well connected by Air and rail link and a number of star hotels have come up. The Cities like Lhasa and Gyanste offer facilities available in any metropolitian city of India.
Mr Lakhotia said the items selected for trading might not be in demand now and reassessment of the market could only give a clear picture about it.
If needed we would also request the government to include some more items in the list for trading but it would take time, he said.
Mr Lakhotia said in the present scenario the trade through Nathu La pass would benefit only the small traders dealing in grocery and vegetables not the big traders.
The veteran businessman who now runs movie halls, hotels and deals in autombile in Gangtok, Siliguri, Malda and Kolkotta through his four sons said at present the big traders do not have any role to play.
Mr Lakhotia said the big traders will invest only after the business converted into full scale trade. He said, "while trade route is opened throughout the year in Kathmandu what business we will do in four months." He, however, said some of the goods transacted through Kathmandu could now be transported through Nathu La pass.
Mr Lakhotia was, however, very optimistic and said the trade through Nathu La will gain momentum gradually. But the big thing was the trade route was reopened.
He thanked Chief Minister Pawan Chamling for the reopening of the trade route saying, ''it happened becauuse of his persistent efforts''.
Mr Lakhotia said the businessmen in Sikkim were very happy and excited as it was they who suffered following the abrupt end of the closure of the trade route in 1962, while business in other parts of the country were conituning with their business through Kathmandu.
He said his family has been doing business in Sikkim for around two centuries now after his grandfather shifted his base from Rajasthan.
Recollecting the trade conducted during the fifties the former Sikkim Chamber of Commerce(SCC) President said till 1953 trade with Tibet was a one sided affair with only the Tibetan permitted to come to India and do business.
In 1953 a delegation of the SCC led by him urged Jawaharlal Nehru during his visit to the state to persuade the Tibetan authorities to allow them open shops in Yatung. Two months later permission came and around 200 shops were opened in Yatung by Indian traders.
At that time trade passes were issued by political officer and there was no limit on number of goods. Goods were traded based on the demand, he said
Mr Lakhotia said there was no roads. Goods were transported on mule's back in some places by the coolies. Initially it took five days to cover the distance from Gangtok to Yatung, but gradually it was reduced to three days as we became familiarised with the route. On the way the traders used to stay in small tea stalls and eat food they took with them. Soaps, rice, dal, cycles, kerosene oil, were some of the items traded during that period. There was no dacoity or robbery.
The business was roaring and profitable before it came to an end in 1962.
Mr Lakhotia, who is the only person selected from among the traders trading in fifties to become a part of the one hundred traders, would visit Renqinnaag trade mart in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China on the day of the reopening of the trade route tomorrow. He is planning to resume trade with TAR.
But the details would be finalised later.
Similarly, R K Thirany another businessman who was conducting business under the banner of 'Thirany brothers' in Tibet in those days said at that time Tibet was depending upon us for every thing.
The 76-year old businessman said the transactions were made either in gold or in Chinese Silver Dollar. Each dollar weighed 1.5 tolas and fetched Rs 3 in exhange.
He said at that time though the journey from Yatung to Gangtok took around three days on one occasion he managed to travell the distance in a day. He said he started from Yatung at 0200 hrs and reached Gangtok at around 0300 hrs.